The Miami Marlins select 12th in the upcoming 2015 MLB Draft, and the team has an important decision to make. As noted before, the club's depth chart is unique in that the Major League team is in need of talent but is bereft of minor league depth due to fast promotions and aggressive trades that have yet to pan out. As a result, the team could need more immediate-impact talent from this year's draft class, which would go against its historical preference towards prep players and its recent choice of going to righty prospect Tyler Kolek over college lefty Carlos Rodon in last year's draft.
If Miami wants help sooner, it may have a few options in this year's draft. Position players on the college side are historically the best performers at the top of the draft, but this year's crop is likely to get immediately snagged up in the first 10 picks. However, the Fish could look at college pitchers as a potential source of talent closer to the majors. Which players are available at or around the 12th pick?
Tyler Jay, Illinois
Jay might headline the most interesting player for Miami if available. He fits the lefty-leaning Marlins preference as a guy who could fill the opposite side of the bump for the team. The Marlins like velocity, and they can see that in Jay, who sits 92-94 mph from the left side and can touch 96.
The problem with Jay is that he was a reliever this past year for Illinois, serving as the team's closer. Many scouts believe he can start, as he has four pitches in his repertoire. Along with the fastball comes a plus wipeout slider and a workable changeup and curveball that would play against righties. He has the ability to get further into games, and the Marlins have had success turning college relievers with skills into minor league starters (see Adam Conley). However, the fact that Jay is so good as a reliever could entice a playoff-contending team ahead of Miami like the Chicago Cubs to snag him up to help a pennant run late season, even if his long-term outlook is still to be made into a starter.
Walker Buehler, Vanderbilt
Buehler is not the best name out of the contending Commodores, as his rotation partner Carson Fullmer is expected to be among the first pitchers selected. But Buehler is no one to be scoffed at, as he has been nothing but excellent for Vanderbilt in his time there. He boasts a 91-94 mph fastball from the right side and at least two potential plus offerings in his curveball and changeup, plus he owns a fringe-average slider that may play. Even with three pitches, Buehler could easily manage advanced hitters now given his college resume. He has a smooth, repeatable delivery with no hitches, and the curve looks like it has solid dive that would entice swings and misses.
The only concern right now is his frame, as he is smallish for an ideal starting pitcher. His workload has never been greater than 104 innings in a season (noting that the Commodores are still playing now in the College World Series), so he may get at least a year to increase those frames and improve his endurance. He has had little in the way of injury problems, so there is good hope that he holds up.
Jon Harris, Missouri State
Harris faced lesser competition than the guys around him in the draft, having played in the Missouri Valley Conference rather than a Big Six school. What may appeal to Miami is his projectability, as he appears to be more of a high-ceiling / low-floor type of prospect. That is rather unusual for a college pitcher, but it may strike the best of both worlds for the Fish, and they have made this sort of draft pick in the first round before. As he fills out his frame, there is a good chance he figures his command and sticks in the low-to-mid 90's velocity.
However, Harris also has significant downside for a college starter, and it starts with inconsistency with secondary pitches. He has a hard time telling his curve and slider where to go, and that may cause problems at higher levels as he advances. This may limit his play and not provide Miami that quick boost in talent that they would like from a college player.
James Kaprielian, UCLA
Kaprielian impressed by moving from the pen to the starter's mound in 2014 for UCLA and maintaining the velocity he was working with before. He plays at 90-93 mph but starts off in the mid-90's at the beginning of the game. He has three other pitches, including a plus slider and average curve and a potentially decent changeup. He boasts strong command of his pitches, so he is higher on the floor department than some of the other players above.
The delivery concerns me having watched the video. He keeps the ball low before starting the motion forward and props up the elbow, which has me worried about repeatability. There are some moving parts that I did not see in many of the other guys mentioned above. The frame should hold up nicely in the majors, however, with little concern for wearing down. If he can improve that tertiary offering, he stands a chance to be a solid mid-rotation starter.
Other names to watch out for with Miami's pick include rawer players like Kyle Funkhouser of Louisville, Phil Bickford of Southern Nevada, and Nathan Kirby of Virginia. Will the Marlins turn to a college player, or do they have their sights set on a prep outfielder? We'll find out tonight as the MLB Draft kicks off at 7 pm EST.